M-Y Habitat Names New Board Member

By Robin Warden

Mitchell Yancey Habitat for Humanity recently named Jo Ann Anderson Fernald as a member of their Board of Directors.  She will serve as the chairperson of the Family Support Committee for the affiliate.   Her duties will include: assisting in the selection of partner families for Habitat homes; working with families to help prepare them for home ownership: and once they move in, supporting them as needed with financial and home management tasks.  

Jo Ann

Jo Ann brings valuable skills and experiences to her role supporting Habitat partner families.  She recently retired from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she was Director of Disability Services for 12 years.  She was Employee of the Year at the University and won the Governor’s Award for Outstanding State Employee.  She is a licensed psychologist, is fluent in American Sign Language, and is a member of the Celo Friends Meeting.   She has lived in North Carolina since 1989.  Jo Ann and her husband Denny live in Spruce Pine with their dog Barley and have four grown children and seven grandchildren.

Jo Ann shares, “I believe that owning a home is more than having a place to go at the end of the day.  It is a commitment to and investment in one’s community.  Owning a home challenges us to make our neighborhood better for our family and those around us.  The memories made at home ground our children and provide a safe harbor in a world that is hectic and demanding.


“The Wednesday Crew” Fellowship Helps Build Habitat Homes

By Robin Warden

As the Mitchell-Yancey Habitat for Humanity affiliate brings a close to 2014, we wish to thank our community for the generous support we have received from so many of you. The Tipton family is now well settled in their home in our first Yancey County Habitat Neighborhood.  We are steadily moving ahead on our goal to complete the second house for Adriana Silva and her family to take occupancy in February.  They continue to work alongside volunteer crews to assist with construction tasks and interior finishes.   Within just the last few months, local crews from Higgins Memorial United Methodist, Spruce Pine United Methodist, the NAACP, and the Celo Friends Meeting have helped to make this family’s dream of living in their own home a reality.

Adriana Silva and her son Edwin Lewin and daughter Jamie Lewin working on their new home located at 127 Celo Street in the new Burnsville Habitat neighborhood

Adriana Silva and her son Edwin Lewin and daughter Jamie Lewin working on their new home located at 127 Celo Street in the new Burnsville Habitat neighborhood

As the 21st Mitchell-Yancey Habitat for Humanity house moves toward completion, there is a very special group of volunteers, known as the “Wednesday Crew”, who have been a central part of our housing ministry.  Approximately 50 folks over time have worked every Wednesday to provide whatever help is needed on our construction sites.

“Wednesday Crew” members bring an interesting array of experiences to each build.  Most members have relocated to Mitchell or Yancey counties from other parts of the country.  Some came here to retire and others to begin businesses or other endeavors.  They share knowledge and skills from many occupations including: fire fighters, engineers, cabinet-makers, horticultural and agricultural inspectors, pharmacists, community council members, insurance agents, printers, salespersons, & merchants.  Surprisingly, only a few previously worked as professionals in the construction trades.  Several have also served on the Mitchell-Yancey Board of Directors over time.

The more recent members of the “Wednesday Crew” are listed here.  Charlie Foust serves as the M-Y Habitat Construction Supervisor working alongside these volunteers.  We would also like to honor deceased members:  Ed Bowers, Charlie Dunn, and Gary Ross.

Members from the Wednesday Crew working on the Silva home.  From left to right back row: Frank Decker, Charlie Foust, Don Boust, Tom Heimerl, Dale Rose, Jim Swaim.  Front row:  Charlie Gillespie, Rose and Gary Ray

Members from the Wednesday Crew working on the Silva home.  From left to right back row: Frank Decker, Charlie Foust, Don Boust, Tom Heimerl, Dale Rose, Jim Swaim.  Front row:  Charlie Gillespie, Rose and Gary Ray

Current Wednesday Crew: Don Bouret, John Hendricks, Gary Ray, Al Bruce, Alan Higgins, Duke Rose, Lee Coons, Phil Hunsucker, Jim Swaim, Frank Decker, Stinson McCrosky, Don Weeden, John Dover, Carol McCrosky, Walt Wiley, Charles Gillespie, Frank Miller, Thomas Heimerl, and John Nelson

What is most impressive is the spirit of fellowship they have created.  “We do this for the pleasure of working with each other in a cooperative environment.  We all share our skills and tricks of the trade, mentor each other and help other volunteers, and troubleshoot as a team.   No one person is the boss.  We just joke and help each other and we can’t remember a harsh word that has ever been spoken”, shares long time members Jim Swaim and Frank Decker.   Charles Gillespie states, “It is a pleasure to work with my hands to help someone else.   It is very different and so much more personal than writing a donation check.”

 Charlie Gillespie finishing interior painting at Silva home.

 Charlie Gillespie finishing interior painting at Silva home. 

Group members first came together on Martin Luther King Day in 2000 when M-Y Habitat created a community workday.  Over 50 volunteers showed up and several people stepped forward to help guide and support volunteers needing direction.  And thus, the Wednesday Crew was born.   In the beginning when funds were sometimes sparse and crews worked from hand to mouth, members recall the generous support from community members and businesses donating materials and delaying payments until funds became available.  Many of the wives of crewmembers have also been active over the years making curtains and quilts for partner families and cleaning homes after the construction crews finished their work.

Carol McCrosky:  measuring and cutting siding for the Silva home.

Carol McCrosky:  measuring and cutting siding for the Silva home.

Mitchell-Yancey Habitat for Humanity is grateful to these folks for their commitment to build homes for our neighbors in need of housing.  Our work as a housing ministry has been enhanced by their loving efforts.  Thank you to all who have been involved.

Tom Heimerl and Dale Rose finishing the porch stairs at Silva home. Carol McCrosky:  measuring and cutting siding for the Silva home.

Tom Heimerl and Dale Rose finishing the porch stairs at Silva home.

If you or others in your family, workplace, church, clubs or organizations would like to be apart of the Habitat for Humanity mission to build homes and change lives, we invite you to join us.  Consider volunteering on a build, helping in our ReStore, working on affiliate events or committees, or making a monetary contribution.  Call us at (828) 766-9000 and speak with our Volunteer Coordinator, Ann Berdeen.


Local Potter Creates

By Robin Warden

Linda has spent 40 years as a potter starting at age 13.  She has lived and worked in Mitchell County since 1976 and served as a board member for Mitchell-Yancey Habitat and a member of the Family Selection Committee.  Linda shares her belief that if you see something that needs to be done and you can do it, then do it.  Thus in 2006, she initiated the affiliate’s first Women’s Build Program. Women’s Build is Habitat for Humanity’s program for women who want to learn construction skills and build homes and communities. This program brings together women from all walks of life to address the housing crisis facing millions of women and children worldwide. A core group volunteered once a month ranging in age from 16 to 70 years with most having no building experience, except for Linda who built her own home in Mitchell County.

Linda Sharpless in her pottery studio in Mitchell County

Fifteen years ago, Linda also felt it would be a good idea to provide special mugs for Care-A-Vanners to drink coffee while volunteering on a local Habitat build.  RV Care- A-Vanners is a volunteer program for anyone who travels in a recreational vehicle, wants to build Habitat houses and have fun doing it.   Since that time, she has been making 40-50 pottery mugs annually for Mitchell-Yancey Habitat.  Her functional and attractive $20 mugs have been for sale at the Habitat ReStore, the Celo Inn, and the Celo Craft Shop every since and funded over  $ 2,200 in donations to our affiliate.

“I am pleased to have been a part of a group of very strong Habitat supporters in Mitchell County who helped to build the Habitat mission here.  There are so many families in need in this area and the most difficult task I have taken on for Habitat is finding and selecting families for Habitat homes.” shares Linda.


Stitch & Chat Donates $30,000 to Habitat

By Robin Warden

Twenty -five years ago, the late Carol Henry, co-founder of Mitchell-Yancey Habitat for Humanity told the board of directors that she planned to fund the building of the foundation on the next Habitat house through the sale of handcrafted potholders.  At that time, it cost about $1,500 to do this.  They laughed; and the group she named “Stitch & Chat” went to work.  Groups have been gathering every since to continue the tradition.  Today potholder sales are approaching $30,000.   That amount is what it now costs to build the shell of our latest home in the Burnsville Habitat neighborhood – including the foundation, crawl space, interior & exterior walls, floor and roof systems, and install the windows and exterior doors.

 “Stitch & Chat” members:  Carol McCroskey, Sue Stern, Wendy Ward, Elizabeth Gibson & Martha Smith

Carol McCroskey, the original owner of the “Needle Me This” fabric shop in downtown Burnsville had contributed fabric over the years to “Stitch & Chat” groups. She also continues to dedicate her time working on Habitat building crews and helping to select and sponsor Habitat partner families.  A year ago while teaching a quilting class, she recruited a new group of women from the First Presbyterian Church in Burnsville. The group meets every Monday afternoon and includes: Jean Autrey, Elizabeth Gibson, Carol McCroskey, Martha Smith, Sue Stern, and Wendy Ward.

Members share many feelings about their work;  “We all believe in and want to support Habitat in any way possible.  It is important to provide affordable housing for families.  This is about doing things for people who do things for themselves.  This is what Christians do, without expecting anything in return. “   These women also continue to provide household items for our newest partner families.  “I am excited about giving the family a refrigerator.   This will allow them to spend that money on other items they need,” shares Elizabeth Gibson.

They are proud of the designs they have created with colorful fabrics and patterns and are especially pleased with potholders using wool and batik-dyed fabrics. They sell their work in Yancey County at the Celo Inn, OOAK Gallery, and Toe River Craft Gallery & the Habitat ReStore and Fabrics in the Fray Quilt Shop in Spruce Pine.  Potholders sell for  $7-10 a piece.  This  “Stitch & Chat” group in their first year has already contributed over $3,000 in sales to our local Habitat.

Array of potholders hand crafted by the "Stitch and Chat" group

Carol appeals to our community for help funding their venture, “Our sources for materials have disappeared while fabric now cost around $12 a yard and the last supply of batting we purchased for $185.  Although they are grateful to Faust Textiles in King ‘s Mountain for donations of fabric samples and for providing wholesale pricing on batting, it is not enough to keep up with the production level they have created for themselves.  “We welcome your fabric scrapes and we especially like recycled wool plaids.”

The group extends an invite to all who are interested, “Come and join  us anytime.  We love to meet and visit with new people and enjoy dynamic talk about our lives and world issues as well.”    Call Carol at (828) 675-4927 to donate or participate in


Purls of Wisdom Group

By Robin Warden


Back in 1992 a group of knitters emerged to support the efforts of Mitchell-Yancey Habitat for Humanity.  This group began with a Cabin Fever Session hosted by Nancy Herman.  Cabin Fever is a longstanding tradition in the South Toe area of Yancey County where residents offer an array of classes, discussion groups, and social gatherings in their homes during the long winter months.   Twenty-two years later, the group, known as The Purls of Wisdom, is still meeting at Nancy’s home every Monday afternoon from 1-4.


The group began as a small class and now includes about 15 members whose knitting skills and talents cover a wide range. “As we continue to help each other with our knitting issues, we have also become a support system for a variety of other issues in our lives. The group has provided a great opportunity to get to know people coming into this community over the years and possibly connect with folks you may not have otherwise met, “ Nancy shares.

Nancy Herman, Joyce Johnson, Candy Powers & Linda Giles members of "Purls of Wisdom"

It did not take long for Purls of Wisdom to embrace a way for their work to help the community.  They were inspired by the efforts of Carol Henry, co-founder of the Mitchell-Yancey Habitat for Humanity affiliate.  Her sewing group, Stitch and Chat, made and sold potholders and donated their sales to Habitat.  Group member and longstanding leader in M-Y Habitat, Joyce Johnson, proposed that knitted items be sold in the local Toe River Craft Shop and these proceeds donated to Habitat.


Members became interested in learning more about Habitat and supported the notion of a grass roots community project to help build homes for families in need.  They also saw an opportunity to support and expand the inventory in the Craft Shop.  Today, the work of the Purls of Wisdom group has become part of the diverse and colorful craftwork collection on Hwy 80 South at the Toe River Craft Shop; including: felted potholders and wash clothes; scarves, mittens, socks, hats and other clothing items, and baby blankets.  Items range in cost from $15-$75 and the Craft Shop donates 100% of selected item sales to Habitat.   To date, this effort has provided Habitat with $ 2,200 to support their housing ministry.


The Quilters of Higgins Church

by Robin Warden


The legacy of the Ugly Quilt Group of Higgins United Memorial Methodist in Burnsville is far reaching.  These women have donated approximately 80 handmade quilts to members of our new Habitat for Humanity partner families in Mitchell and Yancey counties since 1992.  The group conservatively estimates that the 7,000+ quilts they have made can also be seen swaddling newborns at the Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, at our local Pregnancy Crisis Center and comforting infants at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya.   Each year baby quilts made by the group are delivered by local retired physicians, Drs. David and Carolyn Cort of Burnsville, to Kenya through the Samaritan Purse Program.  This program is an evangelical Christian humanitarian organization located in 20 counties across 5 continents and provides aid to people in physical need.

Higgins United Memorial Methodist Church Quilters Group

Mary Kay Huber of First Presbyterian Church in Burnsville initiated the group over 22 years ago. In 1992 Estelle Sheldon, extended the group to Higgins.  What began as an effort to make quilts for homeless individuals living in Asheville now also includes gifting quilts to hospice patients, the Reconciliation House, the Family Violence Center, the Memory Care Center, Group Homes, and dog bags to the Humane Society.  The group makes a special effort to provide baby and prayer gifts for the Higgins congregation as well as, memorial quilts for decreased members of their church.   Members over the years have included expert quilters, as well as, members who came to learn this craft.

Higgins quilts ready to be presented to new Habitat partner families

The quilt group membership now includes: Ethel Nash – Chairwoman, Karen Abernathy, Mary Tom Aldridge, Marilyn Gulesian, Helene Moore, Mary Nelson, Phyllis Patterson, Billie Marie Ray, Barbara Thornberry, and Nancy Williams.   They meet weekly at Higgins Church on Wednesdays from 10-2 and some members spend additional hours working at home.  Last year alone this group, with the help of a Monday Sewing Group at Higgins, made over 500 quilts.

Mother hold her new infant wrapped in a Higgins Quilt in Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya

Although they long ago named their work “Ugly Quilts”, their creations hardly fit this description.  Shelves filled with colorful fabrics and cabinets spilling over with soft, beautifully designed quilts awaiting their homes surround their workspace. Initially, they created their quilts by stripping the wiring from discarded electric blankets.  “Now all of our quilts are constructed with batting and A-1-A quality materials”, reports Ethel Nash.  The tops of each quilt are made with 100% cotton fabric pieces donated by the community.  Backing and batting is purchased through funding from Higgins Memorial Methodist Church and community donations.  All quilts are hand- tied.  No materials are ever wasted. “Every piece is a work of love”, shares Mary Nelson.

Child receives his quilt during a Habitat home dedication

A couple from Burnsville while visiting Asheville one day, saw a homeless man on a chilly morning walking out from under a bridge.  This area was a known dwelling for the homeless.  The man was wrapped in a quilt made from familiar fabric donated by the couple and made by the women. Upon being presented with a quilt for her newborn at the Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, a mother worriedly asked how much it would cost.  She was brought to tears when the two women presenting from the Higgins quilt group told her it was a gift for her baby.  A Hospice nurse during a visitation noticed the new grandbaby in the home was wrapped in a quilt made of fabric she had donated to the Higgins quilters.


Mitchell – Yancey Habitat thanks the women of the Higgins Quilting Group for helping our partner families feel the comforts of their loving work.


Joyce Johnson Serving Habitat for 22 Years

Joyce Johnson recently completed her last term as a board member for Mitchell-Yancey Habitat for Humanity.  She served for 22 years beginning in 1992 as a member of the first board.  During these many years, Joyce served several times as Secretary of the board and most recently as the board Vice President.  

Joyce Johnson

She immersed herself in numerous governance and management roles and tasks to help build and sustain our Habitat affiliate.  She brought stability and sustained focus to Habitat’s mission to provide safe and durable housing for low-income families. Joyce involved herself in the many jobs required for Habitat for Humanity to build homes and change lives in our community, including : 

  • working with area churches, businesses, and social service agencies to help select families and maintain families in their homes, 
  • collaborating with lending institution and funding agencies to provide low- interest mortgages, 
  • helping to select building sites and maintaining building standards, 
  • establishing and supporting a volunteer base for construction and other tasks of the affiliate; and 
  • assisting with Habitat’s commercial retail operation at the ReStore in Spruce Pine


One of her more passionate endeavors was to create Mitchell-Yancey Habitat’s Family Support Committee dedicated to helping partner families secure and successfully maintain ownership of their homes.   Guided by her training and experience as a social worker, Joyce helped families learn financial management, homeowner maintenance, and good neighbor concepts and skills. She maintained close communication with families in need, working as a safety net when medical, work, or family issues created difficulties.  During the difficult financial times of late, she worked tirelessly with designated families, social service agencies and mortgage lending institutions to modify mortgages, helping families deal with debt by reconfiguring their mortgage payments.   Many Habitat families can share how Joyce made it possible for them to keep their homes during troubled times.  


“I have always felt passionate about helping families, who live in substandard housing, to be able to afford safe and comfortable homes.  One can clearly see the impact on the health and well-being of children when their parents can own a home and become part of a community,” states Joyce.  

Joyce is no stranger to the challenges of community organizing and governance in our counties.  In addition to her service to Habitat, Joyce has been a leader in education and in the arts.  Since relocating to the Celo Community in Yancey County from Detroit, Michigan in the early 70’s, she and her husband Gil raised their three children in the South Toe River Valley.  During these times, she served as Co- Director of the Arthur Morgan School in Celo from 1974-2001, spending 7 years recruiting teachers and students for the school.  She was a founding member of the Toe River Crafts Council, serving as President of the board and a board member, Coordinator of the Children’s Art Program in area schools, and Director of Music in the Mountains for 3 years.  


Thank you to Joyce Johnson for all she brought to the Habitat mission in our community.


Habitat Welcomes New Construction Coordinator

by  Robin Warden

Charlie Foust

Mitchell-Yancey Habitat for Humanity is pleased to announce Charlie Foust as their new Construction Manager.  He will oversee the building process of Habitat homes in both counties and coordinate contractors and volunteers working on-site.  At present, his efforts will be focused on the completion of in the Burnsville Habitat neighborhood located at Longview and Celo Streets.   The first of three energy-efficient homes has been completed and 2 more homes are underway at this site. 


Charlie Foust brings many skills and experiences to benefit our local Habitat affiliate.  Since the early 1980’s he has been building homes, condos, and commercial buildings including hotels & restaurants throughout Florida.  He is originally from Miami, Oklahoma and received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Kansas State Teacher’s College in High School Carpentry.  His career in the building trades has included considerable on the job training for many crews.  He has received certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and is certified by the Army Core of Engineers in Quality Control and Safety.   


Charlie shares he is happy to be a part of Habitat. “This is a very worthwhile organization that addresses the issues of hunger and homelessness for families and allows us to keep our efforts focused here at home to help those in need.”